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Ensuring successful implementations in medium sized organisations

Recently I have been musing about ensuring successful system implementations in medium sized organisations.

As a system implementor I am always a little nervous that the systems being implemented won’t be as enduring as the investment in them needs to be.  Often, when the project comes to an end, everyone has been trained, the system is handed over to local resources to manage, the IT Department or Managed Service Provider has taken over support and vendor management, and we are already up to our armpits in the next project. 

The new system - is it meeting expectations?

 Whilst most users are trained, some aren’t using the system properly, some did the training so long before they needed to use the system that they don’t remember how, others started with the organisation long after the training was a distant memory and may not even have access.  Despite the organisation, the support team and the vendor all wanting the system to be a success, something is broken and the system starts to lose credibility, and thoughts begin on replacing it or carving off functionality to other existing or even new systems.

 During a recent project discovery meeting with a client, we were discussing a related existing system that was causing frustration in the organisation.  Our scope did not include resolving the other system issues but in the meeting we had the organisation’s system experts, the owner of the Managed Service Provider, and the owner and lead developer of the system all in one room.  Difficulties with access, speed and other circular issues were raised as we investigated how we could get reliable information from this existing system. 

 Everyone in the room wanted this other system to be a success but hadn’t all gotten together since the system was implemented.  An open and frank discussion resulted in many of the issues being fixed - even in the meeting. Monitoring was enhanced, extra infrastructure resources were allocated, and commitments gained from the various parties to further investigate the other main issues identified, but now with a clearer context and understanding of the impacts.  It was agreed that the participants would meet regularly going forward and we walked away feeling good about the minor facilitation role we had.

How to ensure enduring use of a new system post implementation... 

Every system implementation has change management, training, user acceptance and handover as project stages, activities or milestones, but what really needs to happen going forward is more than paying the bills and having a support team where tickets can be lodged and managed.

 Ensuring the enduring use of a new system in a organisation, post implementation involves a combination of strategic planning, effective communication, ongoing support, and continuous improvement.  Post implementation best practice needs to include many, if not all of the following:

  •  Executive Sponsorship: Secure buy-in and support from senior leadership to emphasize the importance of the new system and its alignment with organisational goals.

  •  User Involvement and Training: Involve end-users early in the process to understand their needs and concerns. Provide comprehensive training sessions to ensure users are proficient in using the system effectively.  Provide forums for them to raise and explain the impacts of the issues they face.  Workshops or seminars conducted by expert users are a great way of sharing knowledge and overcoming system issues and misconceptions.

  •  Change Management: Implement a structured change management process to address ongoing resistance and promote acceptance among employees after go live. Communicate the benefits of the new system and address any misconceptions.

  •  Engineering Change Management: Organisation needs change over time, so it is critical to also have an Engineering Change Management process that manages the need for customisation and flexibility and ensure trailing, support, integrations and other system interactions are maintained as changes occur.

  •  Continuous Support and Maintenance: Provide ongoing technical support to address any issues or questions that arise post-implementation. Establish a dedicated support team and resources to maintain the system and address updates or upgrades.  Importantly system support isn’t just rebooting servers, updating certificates, resetting user access and installing the latest patches and updates.  Users need help in how they use the system.  Online or face to face training needs to be maintained to keep it current and available for new or forgetful users to be able to access when they need it.  Tickets need to be analysed to identify common user issues or training shortcomings, and then real (often multi department or provider) actions taken to rectify them.

  •  Performance Monitoring and Feedback: Monitor the performance of the system regularly and solicit feedback from users to identify areas for improvement. Use metrics and KPIs to track usage, adoption rates, and user satisfaction.  Report finding to the Executive Sponsor and management in general to get support for improvements or changes.

  •  Promote a Culture of Learning and Innovation: Encourage a culture of continuous learning and innovation within the organisation. Empower employees to explore and leverage the full capabilities of the system to improve efficiency and productivity.  This is where the forums, workshops and seminars come into their own.

  •  Documentation and Knowledge Sharing: Maintain comprehensive documentation, user guides, and training materials to support users and facilitate knowledge sharing. Establish a central repository for resources and best practices.  Update these as part of the Engineering Change Management.

  • Integration with Existing Processes: Ensure seamless integration with existing systems and processes to minimise disruptions and maximise efficiency. Identify dependencies and potential points of integration early in the planning phase, but also reassess as other new systems are implemented in the organisation.

  •  Regular Reviews and Updates: Conduct regular reviews and assessments of the system to identify opportunities for enhancements or updates. Stay informed about new developments and advancements in technology that could benefit the business.

  •  Circle the wagons:  And last but not least get the key players together on a regular basis to work collaboratively on resolving the key issues hindering (or even preventing) enduring use of the system.

Remember, the system was likely funded and executed to either resolve weaknesses or to realise opportunities to benefit the organisation.  The investment in time and money (and other lost opportunity) was probably a major decision.  Not looking after the system after go live is like planting a tree and then never tending it afterwards. 

Feel free to contact me directly to discuss your next system implementation.